Sunday, September 06, 2015

Thoughts on listening

Chatty Cathy, Little Miss Chatterbox, Big Mouth... yes, I have been called all of these things before. I recognize that is probably a problem. Something I've realized is that words sometimes spill out of me because if they don't, I feel a bit like a boiling pot about to blow the lid. Hopefully writing will be a better outlet for me than talking the ears off of my obliging friends and family.

I don't think that I am alone in this problem. In trying to address it, I came across a helpful article published in Forbes online entitled 10 Steps To Effective Listening. As a brief summary:

1) Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. (*caveat cultural context needs to be taken into account!)
2) Be attentive, but relaxed
3) Keep an open mind
4) Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying
5) Don't interrupt and don't impose your "solutions"
6) Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions
7) Ask questions only to ensure understanding
8) Try to feel what the speaker is feeling
9) Give the speaker regular feedback
10) Pay attention to what isn't said -- nonverbal cues

The two points that I struggle the most with are #5 and #6. I struggle with #5 not necessarily because I think that I know best, but because I have a strong desire to help when I hear friends/family discussing problems. I realize, however, that it is often best to wait for someone to ask for your feedback or advice before offering it. Oftentimes, all the person wants is a listening ear. I also struggle with #6 because my thoughts tend to race ahead of the pace that the person is speaking, unless the person is speaking very quickly. I agree with what the author of the article wrote about pacing a conversation. The onus is actually on the listener not the speaker to hold back his/her desire to ask questions or to interject, and to allow the speaker to set the pace of the conversation.

I am hoping that I can improve in these two areas. Perhaps others will also find some of these points useful, particularly with identifying weak areas. In summary, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason!

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